ELECTION2020_DIGIBANNER

Rangitīkei is the third largest general electorate in the North Island. It is vast, deeply rural, and dotted with small towns.

The western boundary starts just north of Foxton, goes across to Shannon up to Feilding and then stretches further up the country taking in Marton, Hunterville and Taihape, through Ohakune and National Park, right up to Taumarunui in the Ruapehu District.

But the electorate excludes Palmerston North which is its own electorate.

Andy Watson is the mayor of Rangitīkei, the district that makes up the majority of the electorate. Having lived there most of his life, he knows the area pretty well.

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"We are certainly the heart of the red meat production," Watson said. "Some people hate that of course, but in terms of lamb and beef production, we are huge. Some of our stations in the northern area are vast. We have places like Ngamatea Station that's got an 18 stand woodshed! There are a couple of places in the South Island that may be of that scale but that is enormous."

The entire electorate can boast that it has no parking meters or traffic lights. It's certainly an easy place to live with most household rents below $250 a week.

"Why come here?" Watson asked. "First of all, lifestyle. If you live in Auckland or Tauranga you have a million dollar house. It may not be huge, but a million dollars buys you a lot of property down here. It also buys you hassle free and traffic free. Getting kids to school in Auckland is diabolical.

"Two hours to Taupō, two hours to Wellington - location and lifestyle is big."

The population is slowly growing and changing as people recognise Rangitīkei. The council has hundreds of homes being built or going through consenting stages. But like elsewhere in New Zealand, many towns have suffered from lack of infrastructure investment. Because of low rates and small population, investment from central government is vital, which is starting to happen.

"Like every mayor and every council in the country we are scrambling for PGF funding," Watson said. "We have some fairly significant applications that have been launched, and I am holding with bated breath really."

The flood of urban voters might push Rangitīkei a little to the left, but it is still considered a safe seat for National. Incumbent, Ian Mckelvie took over from Simon Power in 2011 and is standing again, this time against long-time local councillor Soraya Peke-Mason for Labour.

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